A Star’s Tale

The following is this year’s Christmas Eve sermon. It is longer than a normal blog post, but not as long as a normal sermon. I did a lot of research into stars, and most of that material landed in the trash bin. But because I don’t want it to fully go to waste let me share two quick facts with you;

1- I placed the Bethlehem Star in the general vicinity of virgo, which seemed poetically correct, but I have no idea if it is true. 

2- I was curious if stars could ‘talk’ to one another, and I found out that they do send out radio waves, which is good enough for me. 

If you want to check out the whole Christmas Eve  service, you can click here.

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Tonight, I would like to tell you a story. It is a story about a wonderful person who goes by 13, 23, 53, -4, 14, 12. You probably don’t know them by that name, and I suppose saying that they are a wonderful person is misleading because they are not really a person. But just because they are not a person doesn’t mean they are not wonderful. The story I would like to tell you is about the Bethlehem Star, or Beth as she prefers to be called.

Before I go on there is something you need to know. Stars love shining their light and being seen. There are lots of complicated lessons in physics to help us understand how stars twinkle and shine. But the why of it is simple, it gives them great joy to be seen and admired.

TZ-Star-of-Bethlehem.grid-6x2

I should also tell you, if you were to look into the sky tonight trying to find Beth, you won’t see her. Of the 9,096 stars that we can see on a clear, dark night Beth isn’t one of them. In truth that sort of bums her out. That fact actually makes Beth let’s say unique. Every other star in the sky, the ones we can see and the ones that we cannot see have always felt like they were living out their purpose in life.

They provided light and heat to the objects that surrounded them. They light up the night skies here, and on worlds we don’t have names for. They nudged comets, and planets here and there. They orbit, rotate and are happy. Beth enjoys all of those things, but there was a time when she couldn’t help shake the idea that she wasn’t quiet where she was supposed to be, she felt that there was more that she was called to do. She just didn’t know what it was.

Beth would talk about these feelings from time to time with her hero and role model the North star. The North Star is a strong confident star who always points people in the right direction. And the North Star is kind and friendly. She always encouraged Beth to dream big, but to also enjoy the life and tasks that she had been given. Beth appreciated the advice but hoped and prayed that one day she would be just like the North Star.

Because of this it was hard on Beth not to be noticed. She hated feeling invisible, and at times it seemed like she didn’t really matter. She was going through all the stellar motion but in truth her heart wasn’t always in it.

One day while Beth was considering what to do with an asteroid headed her way, she heard the rumour that God was about to do something new, something that no one in the universe had seen before, and something only a very few had expected. God himself would fully enter the universe, he would come to be a person, an infant no less.

Now Beth was hardly the newest star in the sky, she had been around for a while. But this sounded crazy to her! I mean she knew that God loved the whole universe, and that he had a special love for the people he created, but he always sort of interacted at a distance. I mean God was there for sure, but he would shift world events along behind the scenes, or he would interact with a few very select people, or maybe a show of a miracle now and then. But this, well this was so beyond anything she had ever heard of, and so beyond anything that she had ever imagined. It was wondrous, and strange. It was exciting, and kind of scary.

While she thought about what all of this would mean for the universe, in particular the people on earth she was hit by a sudden feeling of sadness. This was great and all for the people down on earth, and she supposed it was great for everyone who was handy earth but she was so far away. It didn’t really impact her, it didn’t really have anything to do with her.

Just as she was about to turn her attention back to that nearby asteroid another thought entered her mind, ‘what if people don’t notice God? What if they don’t see him, just like they don’t see me? I’m a star, and they can’t see my light because I am too far away far, but God is coming near is such a strange way, they might not even think to look. Or if they do they might not have any idea where to look!’

She talked with the other stars, and they all agreed it could be a real problem. The stars that knew the people the best said that many of them we busy, most rushed from here to there just getting through one day to the next. It would be easy for them to miss something even as spectacular as God coming into the world. Beth knew what to do. She would talk to the North Star! Surely, she could get everyone’s attention and help the people know about God’s great miracle.

But the North Star said she couldn’t help get the word out. The people knew her, trusted her, and even depended on her. But much like the Sun and the Moon she already carried a message to the people from God, she couldn’t tell the people anything new.

There Beth was filled with a mixed sense of determination, worry and purpose. She knew the message of God needed to get out, but she didn’t know what to do about it. Then and there she whispered a short but meaningful prayer, a prayer whispered by countless people aware of a problem that they don’t have a solution for. ‘I don’t know how I can help but here I am God, use me.’

With that something remarkable began to happen. The light the Beth was giving off began to get brighter, and brighter, and brighter still. Beth didn’t fully understand what was happening but within a few short moments the light that she was admitting became so bright that a 9097th star began to dance in the night sky, a tail beamed off it so much so it couldn’t be ignored. No star gazer on earth had ever seen anything like it. Everyone who looked into the sky saw Beth, few understood what she was trying to tell them. But the wise amongst us did, and began a journey to meet this new king, this son of man, this son of God, Emmanuel with us.

Once they discovered the baby, and the word began to spread Beth’s light returned to normal. However, those feelings of not being in the right place went away forever. Sure, she wasn’t seen by the people of earth anymore but we would never forget her. The change though was deeper than that. She felt her purpose had been met, and with that she felt more joy doing all her normal star activities.

Christmas is a wonderful time when we gather with friends and family. But perhaps you find yourself just going through the motions, doing life but not really feeling complete. And today you have paused to hear some about the Christmas story, but it can feel far away from you, to the point that you’re not sure if it really matters. Maybe you are here asking those big question in life, why am I here, and what is my purpose? I can’t answer those questions with individual precision for each of you tonight, but I can suggest an answer. We find our purpose in knowing and being known by God, and enjoying God forever. There is no better place to start that journey than here tonight thinking about the baby Jesus lying in a manger.

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Notable Biblical Women- The Canaanite Mother

Biblical Women

 

While I was finishing working on this sermon my daughter, Ariella lay half asleep on the couch beside me. She picked up a stomach bug and was feeling pretty under the weather. Now today a few days later she is still laying on the couch fighting the same stomach bug, but her older brother Simeon has joined her. I don’t like seeing them like this but they will feel better soon I am sure of it.

Today’s notable biblical women, is a woman known simply as the Canaanite Mother. And she also has a concern over the health of her daughter. Her daughter is said to be horribly demon possessed. I am not sure what that looks like for this mother and daughter or for how long she has been in this condition. But it is easy to imagine that it was very serious, and that it has gone on for a long time.

It is out of this desperation that this mother seeks out Jesus in hopes that he will heal her daughter. However when she approaches Jesus with her request he rather uncharacteristically refuses. The mother intensifies her request, Jesus intensifies his refusal. The conversation reaches its climax with this unusual exchange;

[Jesus] replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

Yes it is, Lord,” she said. “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table.”

Then Jesus said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” And her daughter was healed at that moment.

There is a lot about this conversation that I don’t understand. I don’t know why Jesus was so uncharacteristically curt, and dare I say rather rude with this mother. But what I do know is that this mother demonstrates a faith that I want to have.

When she encounters a problem that she is unable to solve herself she turns to Jesus. But when met with initial silence and possible refusal she didn’t give up and she kept pressing forward. It is this kind of determined faith that I want to make sure I practice. There will be times in our lives when we face problems that we can not solve, but when we turn to prayer it seems like God is silent.

I think these moments of silence help to take our faith and refine it into great faith. Because it becomes a more tested faith. I don’t know why some prayers go unanswered for days, weeks, months or even years. But I know they do. It is within this space that we must follow the example of this notable biblical woman and demonstrate a faith that perseveres.

Canaanite Woman

Some Notable Biblical Women-Lois & Eunice

Biblical Women

Did you know that some estimates say from the dawn of the human race until now there have been roughly 108 billion people? That is a pretty staggering number. But what I find even more staggering is just how few of those people are ultimately remember by history.

So many people who were no doubt pleasant, charming and generally lovely to be around have simply disappeared into the sands of time. Their names lost to us, maybe forever. Those very few names that have remained with us, those people that we feel compelled to still tell stories about are so often giants in the things they have accomplished.

After sharing stories about people who seem larger than life: people like Esther, Naomi, and Miriam I worry that I leave the impression that God only makes use of amazing people. That somehow we are of less value because we won’t likely be called upon to do such amazing things. That is why I am grateful for today’s notable biblical women;

‘I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you.’ – Paul (2 Timothy 1:5)

What do we know about Lois and Eunice? Not much. Eunice married an unnamed Greek man and they had a son named Timothy. Lois is Eunice’s mother. She may have also married a Greek man because Eunice is a Greek name. But than again so is ‘Christopher’ and my father is not Greek.

The only other things that we know for sure about Lois and Eunice is that they took their faith seriously, and they wanted to pass on that faith to Timothy. We also know that they did so marvelously. When Paul met Timothy he already had a strong faith, and gifts for leadership he just needed a little coaching to figure out how to use them.

Lois and Eunice didn’t entertain kings, or cross the Red Sea. They simply lived their lives with their faith on display for their family to see. The bible contains this teaching;

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up

Sometimes I worry that we have made the process of passing on faith to complicated. We have professionalized it to the point that to many of us think that the pew is better suited than the kitchen table to reach the next generation. Even if the next generation is sleeping in the room beside ours.

Lois and Eunice remind us that God doesn’t require giant acts of faith to change the world. He simply needs faithful people living faithfully in plain sight. He needs us to influence the people closest to us in simple loving ways.